I have taken some time off from blogging, but I felt compelled to return, even if briefly, to share some thoughts from my recent scripture study. Yes, despite the heretic or apostasy label many have fitted me with, I still take the time to read from the Book of Mormon every day. It’s a great story, whatever anyone believes about it. I believe its words are inspired and that it has a lot to teach us, especially since, as many Mormons will say, the Book of Mormon is written for our day.
The biggest problem most Mormons encounter when they reference that the Book of Mormon was written for our day is that they misunderstand the idea. If you are unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, here’s all you need to know for my words in this post: it largely follows the history of and God’s dealings with believers: men, women, and families who profess a belief in God and His Son Jesus Christ and strive to follow the gospel as far as they understand it, first through the Law of Moses, then through the teachings of Jesus Christ after he visits them in the “Promised Land” after his resurrection. The recurring theme of the Book of Mormon is essentially how these followers of God struggle to live righteously in the face of opposition, whether temptations or outside physical forces (the “wicked” Lamanites, for example). Over and over, the Nephites (the name of the “righteous” people who follow God) fail in the face of all this opposition. However, their undoing is always the same: pride. Mormons are fond of the phrase “pride cometh before the fall.” And over and over God warns the Nephites through signs and through his prophets that as the Nephites grow in pride, they ripen for destruction. This is the pride cycle: people live righteously and God prospers them; then the people grow prideful and fall. After a while, they repent, and the cycle starts over.
The Book of Mormon certainly is for our day, but it is a direct warning to the saints of God, or in the case of Mormons, Latter-Day Saints. I have plenty to say on that topic, but for now, I recently reread the following:
1 And now I, Jacob, speak unto you again, my beloved brethren, concerning this righteous branch of which I have spoken.
2 For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer.
3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
4 For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God.
5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.
6 Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them … (2 Nephi 10:1-6)
First, let me just say that, as far as getting in someone’s face and telling it like it is, Jacob is one of the best prophets in the Book of Mormon. Now, a quick breakdown. The “righteous branch” Jacob references is an allusion to the Nephites (originally led out of Jerusalem before it was destroyed by the Babylonians circa 600 BC). The next verse lays out the hope for future generations, since they will have the opportunity to actually see the Messiah.
The most intriguing part of Jacob’s words follow, in verse thee. Who are the Jews? God’s chosen people, of course. Therefore, they must also be the most righteous. I mean, the Nephites are Jews, essentially, or, at least, of the House of Israel. This brings us to another fascinating Mormon belief, “opposition in all things,” which I firmly believe in, but Mormons also like to take things to extremes. Because the early Jews were God’s chosen people, among them lived some of the most righteous; hence, we get the 12 disciples. However, to balance things out, among those early Jews also lived some of the most wicked: because “there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.”
Here comes this long-haired, bearded dude with a growing following, teaching radical doctrines that will essentially supplant the current religious hierarchy, or, at least, reduce their power. It adds up to pride. We, the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ time in this case, know more about the gospel, the doctrine that God wants us to follow than you do. We were raised to lead this “church.” We have studied far more and for far longer than you. What could you, some nobody who roams from city to city teaching beggars and filthy sinners, possibly know about God’s will?
It sounds a little too familiar. Too many Mormons today consider themselves authorities on issues they actually know very little about, even though they have studied the gospel their entire lives, even being trained to lead in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. How dare anyone have a different view point? How dare anyone challenge the authority of the “Brethren”? This is not at all an indictment of the “Brethren,” but it is an indictment of the general membership of the church, those who have taken upon themselves to declare they know better than anyone else. Those who declare that only the way they see things is the correct way; therefore, they stiffen their necks. When Mormons say “Choose the Right,” there is only one “right”; there is no gray between the black and white of Mormon doctrine. Such people have very short memories or simply have never read the scriptures, and they certainly have not taken the time or made the effort necessary to take an objective look at Mormon Church history. Things have never been more black and white than they are now. Is that freedom? Is that agency?
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. (Doctrine and Covenants 58-26-28)
Take heed. I am no Jacob, no prophet whatsoever, but the more I read the Book of Mormon, the more clearly I see it is not only for our day, it is written especially as a warning to God’s people, whoever they proclaim to be.